Cadence Weapon Breaks Down His New Album Track by Track

Photo: Mark Sommerfeld

BY Vish KhannaPublished Jan 16, 2018

On his fourth album, and first in five years, Cadence Weapon is bold and uncompromising in his raps and backed by a wondrous list of hot producers. Here, he breaks down each and every song from this self-titled tour de force — out January 19 via eOne — with Exclaim!

Cadence Weapon's Track by Track Breakdown of Cadence Weapon:
1. "Own This" [prod. by Gibbs]
"At the very beginning of this song, it's a sample of my dad on the radio [CJSR in Edmonton] from the day after I was born. He went on the radio and basically said, 'If I don't get you, my son will.' This album is a rebirth for me, so I thought that was the perfect way to start it off.
"Gibbs is a guy from Oshawa whose beats I was sent by a guy named Ricardo Chung, who works for eOne. I noticed Gibbs' beats, which were off-kilter, and so he started sending me more beats. Then we got together and we recorded, like, 20 songs. He's one of the guys who, when I started this project, got me in rhythm with it. With this one, we had done a session and he was driving me home and a random beat came on and I was like, 'Whoa, what is this?' and he said, 'I made this,' and I recorded a demo of it the next day.
"For me, this is a song about self-reliance and getting organized on the business side after working with people who may not have been acting in my best interests. This is my way of being like, 'never again.'"
2. "Destination" (ft. Deradoorian) [prod. by Harrison]
"Angel Deradoorian is a musician based in New York who used to be in Dirty Projectors. She's been sampled by the Roots and I always tell her that rappers love her. She's an amazing artist and I really admire her a lot.
"Harrison is a guy I kept seeing around and I was like, 'Man, I gotta get a beat from you.' Guys like him and Kaytranada remind me of when I was younger and first making beats with that wild spirit of experimentation. When Harrison is older, he's gonna be absolutely incredible. He's gonna be like Stevie Wonder by the time he's 30.
"In my previous work, I felt reluctant to talk about racial stuff. I was more focused on, 'Let's just make some crazy music.' As I get older, I have a better knowledge of self and I think a lot more about myself as a racialized person. I felt like it wouldn't be a good reflection if I didn't rap more like I actually talk or express what I want to talk about. To me, there's a lot of power behind [the "n-word"] and there's so much to navigate with it. So many people use it in a different way. 'We're trying to take it back and switch the power over.'
"People try and act like Canada is different than the States, but it's actually worse, because it's under the radar and in the fabric of everything. Racists feel like we're in a time where they don't have to hide it anymore. It's nothing new to me. I knew. I felt like, in the past I didn't want to be 'woe is me,' but now I feel like it's a duty. This is me being bigger and blacker.
"Also, this is one of my favourite songs because of my flows, on the second verse in particular. It's a refinement of my old style."
3. "My Crew (Woooo)" [prod. by Kaytranada]
"This is the oldest song on the album. The first time I met Kaytranada, we were both DJing in Montreal at Cabaret Underworld, which is Newspeak now. It was me, him and Prince Club DJing. I wasn't really familiar with him at the time; this was a few years ago. I heard his set and every song was absolutely incredible and was this new kind of music I'd never heard before. I was like, 'What the fuck are you playing?' and he was like, 'I made all this.' It had this J Dilla quality; it's funky, super hard rap, but it's very electronic. It's got the excitement and spirit of classic, Chicago house music but it also has this rhythm that is so singular. I was very excited when I heard it. Once he told me he made it all, I asked him to send me some beats and he did.
"He sent me a pack of beats and the first one I picked from him, he said, 'Oh no, it's taken.' Fast forward to the future, it's s the beat from 'Glowed Up' with Anderson .Paak.
"I start out the song shouting out Montreal neigbourhoods, based on the Montreal that I experienced. The kind of shabby, post-Godspeed, Mile End vibe in Montreal that would burn up an after-party. Montreal is the place where I really became myself. It allowed me to be experimental and freaky and turn the lens around on myself. I had competition too; when I was living there, Mac DeMarco was my neighbour, Grimes was around the corner, Blue Hawaii and Braids were there — we were all on the same street. It was like the Brill Building; we felt really fly.
"Part of the theme of this song is about false humility in Canada, where you can't admit you want to be successful. This song is me being like, 'I want all this stuff.' The first few songs are all about self-reliance and gaining knowledge of self."
4. "Don't Talk To Me" [prod. by FrancisGotHeat]
"FrancisGotHeat is a producer from Toronto who's done a beat for Drake, a beat for Big Sean, and he did a beat on More Life for Sampha. I ended up getting some beats from him through Ricardo, and I wasn't familiar with him at the time. Listening through the beats at the time, I was like, 'Wow, this is so mature,' and he was only like 17 or 18 at the time. One of them in particular excited me because it was super hi-fi and had this OVO-ish quality and it was a real curveball to people who heard it, because it's a more mainstream sound for me. There's definitely a huge wave of young artists who are influencing me.
"I mean 'Don't talk to me unless it's productive.' It's like, if you don't have anything we can build on, I don't wanna waste any time. I haven't put out an album in five fucking years, so let's talk about something important. Songs like this are such an accurate reflection of my personality and this song also tells the story of where I've been during that time period."
5. "Large" [prod. by Chef Byer and Trwubblenaught]
"I love this song and it's one of my favourites to play as well. It's one where I wanted to stunt really hard too. I felt like people in the past have derided me for not being a great rapper and this is me showing them what it really is.
"There's a line in the first verse I love: 'Don't care about the shit you're into / James Baldwin on the instrumental / speak straight up, no innuendo / might throw a brick right up in your window,' and then I go to a line, 'Try to put me in a box but it ain't that simple.' That's a double entendre. So many people in the music industry, once you're doing one thing, they'll only let you do that for the rest of your life. They're used to it and if you change, it makes them uncomfortable. I always wanna change; every time I come out with a new record I want it to be totally different. But they try to put you in a box, dig a hole, put it in the ground. It's like they're trying to kill you. This is my way of saying I'm not accepting that.
"And then in the second verse, I say 'I don't want minimum wage,' which is not just about how I want to make a lot of money. I literally don't want minimum wage, which is what is expected of me, as a person of colour. If you look at the statistics, a black man makes 26 percent less than a white man. Why is that? I don't deserve less; I consider myself equal or better. And I'm talking about the different ways people making music make money now. You're not necessarily going to sell a lot of records now."
6. "The Host" [prod. by Jacques Greene]
"I would say [this person] is the Weinstein of the club world. I wrote this way before these [accusations] were happening, but it's particularly resonant now. There was a specific DJ/promoter in Montreal who inspired this song, but I've also encountered a lot of [similar] people and took elements of them for this song. Just anyone in that world who had a disproportionate amount of power and used it to turn their environment into the cool place to be.
"There are these creepy people in power who assert that power in super negative ways. I didn't realize what was happening at the time, but some of it could've been criminal, and it was a real white privilege situation. [Now] we're in this call-out culture and that's what this song reflects about changes within the community of Montreal. We had to look at it and figure out how to protect each other and not let people like this in anymore.
"Jacques Greene has become one of my best friends. He's a world-class DJ and we have the same perspective on club world. We would hang out and by the end, we'd have a song. Now that I'm much more collaborative, it feels much less lonely."
7. "Five Roses" (ft. Blue Hawaii) [prod. by Blue Hawaii]
"It was important to me to work with women because, looking back at my previous records, I really hadn't. 'Five Roses' is connected to 'The Host.' The first verse is this nostalgia for Montreal, and it references the big, blinking 'farine Five Roses' sign, which is this marker for me that I'm home when I go back. There're a lot of references to my friends: Five Roses is a Miracle Fortress album; I reference Think About Life; 'See the pink sky like Sean said' is about Sean Nicholas Savage. I started to see Montreal as my destiny, like 'I need to live here.' It's got such a special essence to it. Honestly, by the time this interview comes out, I might be back living in Montreal.
"I'm very proud of the lyrics in this song and [Blue Hawaii], who are very close friends of mine, we've worked on stuff before that hasn't come out. I was back in Montreal and Agor (Alex Kerby) was playing me some stuff he'd made and I was like, 'Oh my God, give me that right now,' before I got on the train back to Toronto. I sat on it for awhile and then something clicked and I wrote a song immediately. The first verse is nostalgia for hanging out in the train yards and this bohemian lifestyle we had, and then the second verse is about the loss of innocence as you get older, particularly with that nightlife shake-up I was talking about. It's about how we need to remember our morality, which is a weird thing to come up in rap."
8. "Soju" [prod. by Gibbs]
"'Soju' is another song that's very introspective to me. It's about drinking responsibly. Soju is a Korean rice wine-type drink. I really got into it on a trip to L.A. where I was marrying two people, as an officiant. I'm an ordained minister; they got me ordained just to marry them. It was dope; my speech and stuff, I was on a mountain. It comes up later on the song 'Infinity Pool.'
"Anyway, while I was in L.A., I was staying with Owen Pallett, who was living there at the time, and we went out to dinner with a bunch of his friends in Little Tokyo and were drinking mad Soju. I felt like, 'Man, this is so chill. I need to drink like this.' I felt good after I drank it. When I was a teen in Alberta, it was about how much can I drink, not the quality of it. It's cool to be mature. Know what's not cool? Dying young. I'd rather be mature and live."
9. "System" (ft. Brendan Philip) [prod. by Ango]
"Ango is a dude repping Montreal, but he lives [in Toronto] and it features Brendan Philip. He's an amazing singer, but makes house music and it's very futuristic. I was trying to work with him so hard when I got here, and he and Ango have an EP they're going to put out. The idea of this song is really important to me.
"This song is about the salvation of the dance floor — about why we go to the club. To forget about your problems or feel better until you have to go back to work. It's really all about micro-aggressions — either racist or sexist micro-aggressions. All of this stuff has happened to me and people I've talked to and the women in my life. There's a joke about myself, calling myself out for gaslighting. Say my girlfriend is complaining about work or something and I'm like, 'I'm concentrating on my rapping right now.' A lot of guys do that. We're the worst. So, that second verse is inspired by my girlfriend because I wanted to show her that I am listening."
10. "High Rise" [prod. by Jacques Greene]
"This is inspired by me and girlfriend moving to Toronto and looking for a place to live, which was really hard and took a long time. Obviously there were some landlords who wouldn't rent to us because I'm a black person. That happened a couple times. There was a guy on Roncesvalles who only asked me what I did for money. Didn't ask her anything. I'd have to put on my 'apartment outfit' and tell them I'm a writer.
"This song was inspired by when we realized we weren't gonna find a nice house or apartment to move into, and that maybe we should just do the condo thing. I was super stressed and was taking a bath and the song came to me in the tub. I see some American Psycho vibe in it and I hope people get that I'm not pro condo."
11. "Infinity Pool" (ft. Casey MQ) [prod. by Casey MQ]
"Casey MQ is an amazing musician and we linked up and worked in his studio. I think he's going to be a very popular artist in the next couple of years, because he has great ideas. This song is all about conspicuous consumption — buying shit you don't need and then experiencing remorse afterwards. These things are supposed to give us meaning, but they don't really, and then also, the idea of technological distress and the disdain for all objects. I love shit, but I know it's bad and I'm trying to reconcile that.
"At that wedding in Topanga, I almost fell off a cliff taking selfies. I literally almost killed myself because of my fucking phone. My girlfriend likes to buy me flowers, which is a nice, emotional gesture, but it's still buying something and involves commerce. And in Toronto, people are obsessed with waiting in lines to buy like, new shoes, and then I'm like, 'I need the shoe.' So, it's like, 'This isn't productive.'"
12. "The Afterparty" [prod. by Dubbel Dutch]
"It could be perceived as depressing, but this song is a metaphor where I'm talking about the big after party in the sky. All my life has been about being 'on the list,' but will I be on the final 'list'? In the bridge, I'm talking about limbo, paradise and a hot club downtown. It isn't super obvious but it's there.
"I'm spiritual, but not for a specific thing. There are too many things that are an insane coincidence for it to not have been made by somebody, but that could just be my stupid human mind. In the last verse, I talk about the planet Earth, but I'm really talking about Trump and about how everyone treats the planet like it's a rental car or something, destroying it, and then finding some other planet to occupy.
"But I end with a lot of optimism: 'Could be the end of an empire / Could be the start of a new age / All of my people are inspired / All of my people are enraged.' That's how I feel about life right now. People are pissed off but I've never seen as much engagement. This could be the end of an empire, but also the start of a new, better time, and getting rid of the old guard and ways of doing things. It's a real sea change."
Cadence Weapon is out January 19 on eOne. Listen to this interview with Cadence Weapon on Kreative Kontrol via iTunes or below.


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